Cinema

​Come on down to ‘Harmontown’

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | January 28th, 2015

Fan studies scholars should salivate over Neil Berkeley’s portrait of writer/performer Dan Harmon, the self-proclaimed mayor of “Harmontown,” the popular podcast he hosts.

Berkeley’s documentary bears the same name as Harmon’s loquacious, therapeutic circus, and hardcore devotees will already be familiar with the details of that freewheeling, improvisational, mental odyssey and the ways in which it thrives on audience participation.

Following Harmon on the podcast’s national…

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​Overlooked classic thriller new to Blu-ray

by Christopher P. Jacobs | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | January 28th, 2015

Just about everyone knows of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic “Rear Window,” with James Stewart as a man convinced that a neighbor has murdered his wife but nobody will believe him.

Few remember, however, that earlier that same year a film with a very similar plot came out starring Barbara Stanwyck in a comparable position.

Prolific actress Barbara Stanwyck died 25 years ago on Jan. 20, 1990 after a career that spanned stage chorus girl to acclaimed stage star by 1927, then a major movie…

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Anderson Invites You to His Latest Trip: ‘Inherent Vice’

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | January 21st, 2015

Paul Thomas Anderson’s future cult film “Inherent Vice” is soft-boiled detective fiction. Bleary-eyed and hair-tousled, the movie is a pungent, shambling, meandering and thoroughly hilarious shaggy dog story with a non-agenda traceable directly to the likes of Howard Hawks’ adaptation of “The Big Sleep” and its famous anecdote in which Raymond Chandler received a telegram from the director demanding to know who committed one of the murders.

Chandler, of course, claimed he…

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​Blu-rays explore race relations in Civil Rights-era entertainment

by Christopher P. Jacobs | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | January 21st, 2015

Fifty-five years ago, just as the Civil Rights Movement was growing in America, two films by major directors came out that addressed racial intolerance with a surprising explicitness for the time, outside of obvious social issue dramas.

Premiering in April and December 1960, respectively, these were disguised as colorful western action genre pictures with advertising campaigns that made little or no reference to their basic plot point: one of them promoting what looked like a sprawling…

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​Penn State Sex Abuse Case of Jerry Sandusky Subject of “Happy Valley”

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | January 16th, 2015

While there is an abundance of hero worship on display in Amir Bar-Lev’s raw and riveting documentary “Happy Valley,” the most courageous figure to emerge from the wreckage and devastation caused by the Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State is Sandusky’s adopted son Matt.

For any number of possible reasons, Matt is the only person victimized by Jerry Sandusky to appear in the movie, and each time he speaks, Bar-Lev refocuses attention on the grim truth: the lives of many children and…

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Best new Blu-rays of 2014

by Christopher P. Jacobs | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | January 16th, 2015

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The shrinking selection of Blu-rays at area retail stores concentrates as expected on recent hits that were playing in theatres just months ago, but Blu-ray is still thriving among cineastes with more varied tastes. Even though many people seem to be switching to online streaming options for watching movies and others remain satisfied with DVD quality, the year 2014 has seen an impressive array of classic, foreign, independent and cult films released to Blu-ray in superior…

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​In a word, in a look: Kent scares up “The Babadook”

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | December 24th, 2014

Earning accolades for its stylish design on a modest budget, its reliance on character and storytelling instead of CGI, and its reverence for several legendary genre hallmarks, Jennifer Kent’s “The Babadook,” like its namesake ghoulie, can be tough to banish from your head. Tracing the downward spiral of a struggling widow who loses her husband in a car wreck on the way to the hospital to deliver their son, Kent grounds her breakthrough film in the horror of the everyday before…

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​Vintage widescreen classics new to Blu-ray

by Christopher P. Jacobs | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | December 23rd, 2014

With HD video projector prices now lower than many large-screen TVs, any movie fan with a room that can be darkened should jump at the chance to watch widescreen movies filling an entire wall instead of shrunken down to fit a TV monitor with a “letterboxed” image. Favorites can spring to life on a big screen, but benefiting even more are movies that might otherwise seem routine time-killers on a regular TV set.

Here are some recent Blu-ray releases of films designed for the wide…

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The cycle of revenge in Saulnier’s “Blue Ruin”

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | December 20th, 2014

Jeremy Saulnier contributes a worthwhile addition to the family revenge thriller with “Blue Ruin,” a sharp live wire that transcends both its modest budget and the familiar expectations of the genre through the filmmaker’s keen intellectual investments. The umpteenth story to track the efforts of a driven protagonist en route to a climactic bloodbath, “Blue Ruin” unfolds with many of the hallmarks of tales in which the dire consequences of payback offer little in the way of…

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​How to turn cans into camels ... and most anything else

by HPR Contributor | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | December 18th, 2014

By Jessica Steinke

On a sunny summer day in Wahpeton, N.D., 4-year-old Olivia runs along the fence of the camels' habitat at the Chahinkapa Zoo. Her blonde curls bounce with excitement as she examines her favorite animals. Olivia is a frequent patron of the Chahinkapa Zoo, where she enjoys seeing her beloved pair of Bactrian camels. As she's poised along the fence, the brown camels stand on their lumpy knees, gnawing their daily rations of grain. Their two humps, heavy eyelashes and…

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Gadfly

Crazy like a fox

by John Strand

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Humor

​Talking to strangers

by Sabrina Hornung

“I don’t have a tour, like, on the back of a sweatshirt,” comedian Paula Poundstone says. “I go out every weekend. This weekend I went out Friday, Saturday and Monday. Mostly it’s Friday/Saturday or Thursday through…

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Live and Learn

​The other shoe

by HPR Contributor

By Elizabeth Nawrotnawrot@mnstate.eduI look up from my hotel lobby breakfast astonished to see a framed print of Wassily Kandinsky's "Mit und Gegen,” a masterpiece of color and composition that just happens to be my favorite…

A few months ago I wrote about the long, strange saga of Jason Halek, the fellow who dumped 800,000 gallons of poisonous oilfield brine down an abandoned oil well south of Dickinson. Back in April of this year, he pleaded guilty to…